New rule for rail cars carrying hazardous materials being reviewed

On May 20, 2014, before a Subcommittee of the House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Cynthia Quarterman, the administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) reported that a new rule relating to “tank car issues” and to operational and safety issues surrounding the transport of hazardous materials had been forwarded to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.

According to Ms. Quarterman, this new rule includes a “comprehensive approach to rail safety” and was written with the assistance of the Federal Railroad Administration. Currently PHMSA is responding to questions from the OMB concerning the practical and economic effects of the rule. It is anticipated that the OMB’s review will take approximately 90 days.

The meeting before the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials was held to address the implementation of the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty and Job Creation Act of 2011 which was passed after the September 2010 California pipeline explosion in which eight people were killed and 38 homes were destroyed.

Industry spokesmen testified that they were concerned about the continuing “regulatory uncertainty” due to the lack of clear rules and a seeming lack of urgency to prepare those rules. Ms. Quarterman responded that, while a lack of funds has slowed PHMSA’s ability to develop the rules, PHMSA has completed 21 of the Act’s 42 mandates, with another 13 in progress and eight behind schedule. PHMSA is also in the process of finalizing a rule for gas transmission.

This post was written by Barclay Nicholson ( or 713.651.3662) from Norton Rose Fulbright's Energy Practice Group.